Markets for Midwest Grain



As you drive around the Midwest in the United States of America and see all the beautiful crops, do you ever stop and wonder what is done with all the grain that is grown? The US Department of Agriculture estimates that we will plant over 225 million acres of corn, beans, and wheat this year in the United States! That is over 21 billion bushels of grain. But where do all the bushels go? Let’s look at the top commodities to see where they go and for what they are used for.


The biggest commodity grown in the Midwest is corn. When you think of corn, you think of Corn Flakes or corn chips, right? However, only a small fraction of the corn produced is used to make those products. A majority of the corn produced in the Midwest goes towards processing, livestock feed, or is sold for export. Processing plants use corn to make a variety of things. In fact, did you know that they use corn to make starches for the boxes that your Amazon orders come in? They also use it as an additive that goes into toothpastes, it helps make the high fructose corn syrup for the pops we drink, and it’s used to create the ethanol that we put in our cars. Ethanol is a massive market for Midwest corn. In the states of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois alone, ethanol consumes over 8 million bushels of corn per day! That’s over 5,500 bushels of corn that is consumed every minute. When it comes to exported corn, most bushels go to Mexico, Canada, Europe, China, Japan, and South Korea. Grain destined for exports is usually sold to a cooperative first. The cooperative will then load the grain onto rail cars and ship it to an export elevator, where it is loaded onto ships and sent overseas. A shuttle train typically consists of 100-115 cars and each rail car can hold about 4,000 bushels. Some of the corn that is shipped out by train does not go overseas but is sent to domestic destinations to such as Texas and California. These states use the corn for animal consumption to feed their cattle.


The second largest commodity grown in the Midwest is soybeans. Did you know that the only use for soybeans is to be crushed and made into soybean meal or soybean oil?  Soybean meal is fed to hogs, chickens, and fish. Whereas the oil is refined and is used for human consumption or made into renewable diesel.  Bushels that are not crushed in the United States are exported all over the world and processed in other countries. The country that buys the majority of soybeans from the Midwest is China.


A third commodity that is grown in the Midwest is wheat.  There are several varieties of wheat and different regions of the United States grow different varieties.  Different varieties of wheat are used to make different types of flour.  In the northern parts of the Midwest, they grow Spring Wheat which is used to make a lot of the pastas or pizza that we eat.  In the southwestern portion of the Midwest, you have Hard Red Winter Wheat. That’s used for a lot of the breads that can be purchased at a grocery store.  

The eastern portion of the Midwest grows Soft Red Winter Wheat. Soft Red Winter Wheat is used to make your cookies or cakes. If wheat isn’t used to make flour, it can be fed to animals or exported to other countries. Overall, the grain markets for the commodities grown in the Midwest are bigger than one could ever imagine. Farmers in the Midwest have the ability to sell their goods all over the world to be used to create several different types of products and help feed the world.

There is so much to learn about grain. What we use it for, how it’s grown and how it’s transported. Visit the Growing Agriculture Together media center to GROW MORE.

Aaron DeSmith
Aaron DeSmith

Aaron is the Merchandising Manager for Central Valley Ag Cooperative

Posted In

Leave a Reply